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Delta Symposium XVIII: Roots and Generations presents Dr. Alan Jabbour, Karen Jabbour, Ken Perlman April 19-20


Dr. Alan Jabbour, founding director of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, will be a guest of Arkansas State University's Delta Symposium XVIII along with his wife, Karen Jabbour, and musical partner, the banjo and guitar virtuoso Ken Perlman. On Thursday, April 19, Dr. Alan Jabbour and Ken Perlman will present "Fiddle and Banjo Tunes in Traditional Culture: From Old-Time Roots to Modern Branches," at 4:15 p.m. in the Mockingbird Room of ASU’s Carl R. Reng Student Union, 101 N. Caraway Road, Jonesboro. Sponsored by the College of Humanities and Social Sciences and the Department of English and Philosophy, this presentation by Jabbour and Perlman will show how fiddle and banjo tunes remain vibrant musical expressions in American culture. Like all Delta Symposium events, this presentation is free, and the public is invited.

On Friday, April 20, at 10:30 a.m., Alan and Karen Jabbour will present the keynote lecture "Decoration Day in the Mountains." This multimedia presentation will take place at 10:30 a.m., also in ASU's Mockingbird Room, and it will focus on the research that this husband and wife team have completed for their highly praised book “Decoration Day in the Mountains: Traditions of Cemetery Decoration in the Southern Appalachians,” (University of North Carolina Press, 2010). This presentation is free and open to the public.

After completing his Ph.D. in English at Duke University, Jabbour taught in the UCLA Folklore and Mythology Program before becoming director of the Archive of Folk Song at the Library of Congress, a position once held by John Lomax. He directed the folk arts program of the National Endowment for the Arts until 1976, when he became director of the newly formed American Folklife Center. He served in that position until 1999.

Born in Jacksonville, Florida, Jabbour was a violinist with the Jacksonville Symphony, the Brevard Music Festival Orchestra, the Miami Symphony, and the University of Miami String Quartet.

He became interested in folk music while in North Carolina and made extensive trips into the southern mountains to record traditional music. He also formed the Hollow Rock String Band to perform old-time music. The band recorded one album, which has recently been released on CD by County Records.

Dr. Jabbour has also edited several documentary albums of traditional music: “The Hammons Family: A Study of a West Virginia Family’s Traditions,” “Fiddle Tunes of the Old Frontier: The Henry Reed Collection,” and “American Fiddle Tunes.” Since retiring from government service, Dr. Alan Jabbour has focused on writing, consulting, lecturing, and playing the fiddle.

Ken Perlman is a virtuoso banjo player who grew up in New York City. In the 1970s, he became an architect and an exponent of what has come to be known as the melodic clawhammer banjo style. His early career focused on the Southern instrumental repertory, but his travels in the northeastern U.S., Canada, and the British Isles led him to begin exploring and applying to five-string banjo and guitar the rich instrumental traditions of those regions.

Perlman has become the leading documentarian of the fiddle music of the Canadian Maritime province of Prince Edward Island, and he has brilliantly adapted that repertory to his melodic clawhammer style on the banjo.

In the past decade, after Ken Perlman and Alan Jabbour began performing together, Perlman has again turned his attention to the Southern American fiddle repertory, and his 2005 CD of fiddle-and-banjo duets with Alan, “Southern Summits,” creates a new benchmark in old-time fiddle and banjo performance. Their musical presentation will showcase the duet style Perlman has developed with Alan Jabbour, and they will show how America's folk music tradition continues to blossom from its traditional roots.

Karen Singer Jabbour has been a longstanding partner with Alan Jabbour in researching American folk cultural traditions. In the past decade, they documented the living Appalachian tradition of Decoration Day in rural cemeteries, including the cemeteries underpinning the fifty-year “Road to Nowhere” controversy in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. As part of the research team for that project, Karen Jabbour served as the photographer, and after the team’s report for the Environmental Impact Statement on the North Shore Road (the “Road to Nowhere”), Karen and Alan Jabbour continued to document cultural features of rural Southern cemeteries from Virginia to Oklahoma.

Their book “Decoration Day in the Mountains,” richly illustrated by more than one hundred of Karen Jabbour’s photographs, was complemented by an exhibition of the photographs toured by the Western Carolina University’s Mountain Heritage Center. Her photos also appear in recent issues of Arkansas Review and North Carolina Folklore Journal. These widely praised first fruits of their field documentation will probably be followed by more publications portraying and considering rural Southern cemeteries.

For details, call Dr. Gregory Hansen at (870) 972-3043. The symposium is supported in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and all events are free and open to the public. For an overview of this year’s programming, see the general release for Delta Symposium XVIII: Roots and Generations online. Vist the Delta Symposium homepage, or visit the Delta Symposium on Facebook.